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5 Barriers To Organizational Change

        posted by , March 29, 2013

Organizations only do two things: change and stay the same. It's the organizations that change who own the future.

Change isn't easy. The ability to change is one of the biggest differences between organizations. It's the reason some companies can innovate — while others seem endlessly stuck in the same old patterns.

The following barriers to change are fundamental business gravity. Reduce these barriers and you'll effortlessly move forward. Let these barriers get out of control and you'll sink like a rock.

1. Resistance to Change

People resist change (status quo bias). In fact, many people are willing to accept lower pay to get into an organization that's stable (an organization that seldom changes).

Resistance to change often has political motives. People tend to resist changes that originate with political adversaries.

Another reason that people resist change is that they simply think the change is going to make their life worse (e.g. complicate their job).

People may resist change directly (e.g. use political influence) or indirectly (e.g. passive aggressive behavior).

2. Unknown Current State

An architect wouldn't renovate a building without looking at the existing blueprints.

The culture, processes and systems of large organizations dwarfs the complexity of a building's architecture. Nevertheless, organizations often attempt change without an examination of their current blueprints. This makes it difficult to transition to a future state.

3. Integration

Managing changes in a large organization has been compared to re-engineering an aircraft while it's in flight.

Change is always a moving target. As you implement a system the business processes it supports will change. As you change an organizational structure, employee turnover will occur in parallel.

Long running changes that have many integration points are extremely failure prone.

4. Competitive Forces

In many cases external forces drive organizational change. Competition, external threats, technological change, market conditions and economic forces are all common drivers of change.

Organizations may expedite change in response to external threats. If a competitor releases a product that's 5 years ahead of your products — you may be driven to a extreme pace of change that has a high risk of failure.

5. Complexity

As organizations develop more complex processes, systems and products — change becomes more challenging. Complexity of change is a fundamental barrier.

Complex changes require diligent and highly effective project, risk, quality, knowledge and change management.

In many cases, organizations simply lack the requisite maturity to tackle a complex change.

A fundamental principle of change management is to never tackle a change that's too complex for your organization.

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